Allmendinger to make 400th Cup career start at COTA

In his return to full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition, AJ Allmendinger is set to achieve a milestone start. By taking the green flag in this weekend’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas (COTA), the driver of the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will be making career start No. 400 in NASCAR’s premier series.

A native of Los Gatos, California, Allmendinger made his inaugural presence in NASCAR’s premier series in 2007, when he was named the driver of the No. 84 Toyota Camry for the newly formed Red Bull Racing. By then, he was coming off three full-time seasons in the Champ Car World Series, where he achieved the rookie title in 2004 and five victories along with a third-place result in the final standings in 2006. After failing to qualify for the first four events on the schedule, Allmendinger’s first start occurred at Bristol Motor Speedway in March, where he finished 40th after being involved in an early wreck in Turn 1. In total, he competed in 17 of 36-scheduled events, where his best result of the season was a 15th-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October followed by a 16th-place result at Atlanta Motor Speedway and an 18th-place run at Auto Club Speedway in September.

The 2008 Cup season produced another difficult start for Allmendinger, who failed to qualify for the first three events, including the 50th running of the Daytona 500, before being replaced for the following five events. He then made his first start of the season at Talladega in April, where he finished 30th after being involved in a multi-car wreck on the final lap. After finishing no higher than 27th during his next two starts, he achieved a breakthrough moment in his early stock car career by winning the non-points All-Star Open at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, which enabled him to transfer to the All-Star Race as he went on to finish 17th. From Talladega in April through Kansas Speedway in September, Allmendinger managed to qualify and compete in the series. During the span, he achieved his first top-10 career result after finishing 10th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July. He then achieved his career-best result of ninth place at Kansas before being released by Red Bull Racing. After being absent for the following event at Talladega, Allmendinger drove the No. 00 Toyota Camry for Michael Waltrip Racing on a one-race basis at Charlotte in October, where he finished 43rd, dead last, after being eliminated in an early wreck. He then competed in the final five scheduled events in the No. 10 Dodge Charger for Gillett Evernham Motorsports, where he finished in the top 16 in all but one of his five starts. Overall, Allmendinger competed in 27 of 36-scheduled events and concluded the season with an average-finishing result of 24.7.

Allmendinger commenced the 2009 Cup season as the driver of the No. 44 Dodge for Richard Petty Motorsports while the team was unable to secure sponsorship for Allmendinger’s entry for the full season. Nonetheless, he commenced the season on a high note by finishing in third place during the rain-shortened 51st running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in February. Five races later, he secured his second top-10 result of the season by finishing ninth at Martinsville Speedway in March. Over the course of the season, where he managed to qualify and compete in all 36-scheduled events, Allmendinger racked up seventh-place results at Sonoma Raceway in June and at Dover Motor Speedway in September before notching two 10th-place finishes during the final three events of the season. When the final checkered flag of the 2009 season flew and with a total of 17 top-20 results, Allmendinger capped off the season in 24th place in the final standings.

In 2010, Allmendinger replaced teammate Reed Sorenson as the driver of the iconic No. 43 Ford Fusion for RPM. After finishing no higher than 25th during the first three scheduled events, he achieved a new career-best result to his Cup resume after finishing sixth at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March. He would improve his best result in the series by finishing fourth at Watkins Glen International in August. By then, he had achieved his first career pole at Phoenix Raceway in April. While he did not make the 2010 Cup Playoffs, he accumulated a total of two top-five results, including a fifth-place run at Homestead in November, eight top-10 results, a career-high 181 laps led and an average-finishing result of 17.8 before finishing in 24th place in the final standings. Remaining in the No. 43 Ford in 2011, Allmendinger’s best result of the season was a fifth-place run in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in May. Despite securing a single top-five result in 2011, he accumulated a career-high 10 top-10 results and recorded an average-finishing result of 16.1 before finishing in 15th place in the final standings. By then, he surpassed 100 career starts in NASCAR’s premier series.

At the conclusion of the 2011 season, Allmendinger moved to Team Penske to drive the No. 22 Dodge Charger for the 2012 season, where he replaced the 2004 Cup champion Kurt Busch. Allmendinger’s campaign with Penske commenced on a rough note after finishing 34th in the 54th running of the Daytona 500. He rallied five races later by notching a career-best runner-up result behind Ryan Newman amid a green-white-checkered shootout. During his next 11 starts with Team Penske, Allmendinger finished in the top 20 five times before notching back-to-back ninth-place runs at Sonoma and Kentucky Speedway in June. Then in July, Allmendinger was suspended indefinitely from NASCAR after failing a random drug test and violating NASCAR’s substance abuse program, where he was found to have taken amphetamine, which was a banned stimulant. By August, he was released by Team Penske and participated in the Road to Recovery program. After being reinstated by NASCAR in September, Allmendinger made four starts with Phoenix Racing between October and November, where his best result occurred at Charlotte after finishing 24th. Throughout the 2012 campaign, Allmendinger competed in all but 15 of 36 events.

Allmendinger commenced the 2013 season as a part-time competitor between the IndyCar Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the Cup Series, where he competed in select events for Phoenix Racing. After recording four top-20 results during his first five part-time starts, he then transitioned between Phoenix Raceway and JTG-Daugherty Racing in select Cup events, beginning at Michigan International Speedway in June. With a total of 18 starts in 2013, Allmendinger’s best on-track result was a 10th-place run at Watkins Glen in August. By then, he surpassed 200 Cup career starts.

In August 2013, Allmendinger was named a full-time competitor of the No. 47 Chevrolet SS for JTG Daugherty Racing for the 2014 season. He commenced the season with back-to-back 26th-place results before notching his first top-10 result of the season at Auto Club Speedway in March by finishing eighth. He then notched a sixth-place result at Richmond Raceway in April before collecting his first top-five result of the season at Talladega Superspeedway. Then at Watkins Glen in August, Allmendinger prevailed in several duels against Marcos Ambrose, including the last one during a two-lap shootout, to achieve his first Cup career victory in his 213th series career start, to record the first win for JTG-Daugherty Racing and to claim a spot to the 2014 Cup Playoffs. Allmendinger’s title run, however, came to an early end after three consecutive finishes outside of the top 10 during the Round of 16 left the Californian two points shy of transferring to the Round of 12. With a total of 17 top-20 results throughout the 36-race campaign, Allmendinger went on to finish in a career-best 13th place in the final standings.

Remaining as a full-time Cup competitor for JTG-Daugherty Racing in 2015, Allmendinger was unable to return to Victory Lane nor make the Playoffs as he only achieved a total of three top-10 results, including a season-best sixth-place run at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March. Despite recording two poles during the season, he ended up in 22nd place in the final standings. He rallied during the following season by tripling his total top-10 results to nine and recording two top-five runs, including a season-best second place behind Kyle Busch at Martinsville in April. While he improved his average-finishing result from 23.1 to 17.8 in 2016, he went winless for a second consecutive season, missed the Playoffs and ended up in 19th place in the final standings.

The 2017 Daytona 500 marked Allmendinger’s 300th Cup career start, where he achieved a strong third-place result. He then finished no higher than 17th during the following four events before managing a sixth-place run at Martinsville in April. With just three additional top-10 results during the following 20 regular-season events, Allmendinger did not accumulate enough points to make the 2017 Cup Playoffs. Finishing no higher than 14th during the final 10 events, he concluded the season in 27th place in the final standings.

In comparison to the 2017 season, the 2018 Cup season produced a single top-five run for Allmendinger, which occurred at Daytona in July after he finished third. The season also produced a total of five top-10 results, but he managed to improve on his average-finishing result from the previous season from 22.0 to 21.3 and improve five spots in the standings from 27th to 22nd when the final checkered flag flew. At the conclusion of the 2018 season, however, Allmendinger was replaced by Ryan Preece at JTG-Daugherty Racing. He then joined NBC Sports as an analyst for the network’s IMSA Sports Car coverage before being recruited by Kaulig Racing to compete in select Xfinity events, which he continued through 2020 as he collected three victories in the process.

In 2021, Allmendinger, who became a full-time Xfinity competitor for Kaulig, returned from a two-year absence in NASCAR’s premier series by making his first Cup start of the season at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course in the No. 16 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for Kaulig, where he finished seventh. His next two Cup starts occurred at COTA in May and at Road America in July, where he finished fifth and 29th, respectively. Then during the series’ inaugural event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Allmendinger capitalized on a late run-in involving rookie Chase Briscoe and veteran Denny Hamlin to assume the lead during an overtime attempt and fend off the field to win and grab both the second Cup victory of his career and the first for Kaulig Racing in NASCAR’s premier series. His fifth and final Cup start of the season occurred at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course in October, where he finished 38th due to an engine failure.

Remaining as a part-time Cup competitor and a full-time Xfinity competitor for Kaulig Racing in 2022, Allmendinger competed in half of the 36-scheduled events, beginning at Phoenix in March as he finished 20th. His best results of the season included a runner-up result at Watkins Glen in August followed by a third-place result at Homestead-Miami Speedway and a fourth-place finish at Charlotte in October. At COTA in March, Allmendinger battled against Ross Chastain and Alex Bowman for the victory on the final lap until he was bumped by Chastain with two turns remaining, collided into Bowman and sent sideways into the gravel trap, where he plummeted to 33rd place in the final running order. In total, Allmendinger accumulated a total of eight top-10 results. By then, he was named a full-time competitor of the No. 16 entry for the 2023 Cup Series season.

Through 399 previous Cup starts, Allmendinger has achieved two victories, four poles, 16 top-five results, 69 top-10 results, 559 laps led and an average-finishing result of 20.8. He is currently ranked in 17th place in the driver’s standings with his best result being a sixth-place finish in the 65th running of the Daytona 500.

Should Allmendinger win this weekend’s event in Austin, Texas, he will join an exclusive club of competitors to win in Cup career start No. 400, a list that features Lee Petty, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson.

Allmendinger is set to make his 400th Cup Series career start at Circuit of the Americas on Sunday, March 26, with the event’s coverage slated to occur at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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